Throughout the holiday season, crowds jammed into the tiny first-floor gallery, pouring over Hamilton’s books, records, letters, and inspirations as they worked their way through the various facets of the founding father’s sometimes upside-down life.
Pulling from the NYPL’s divisions for maps, rare books, and picture collections, the curators did a fantastic job of retelling Ham’s story from the non-hip-hop perspective.
What was he thinking? NYPL highlights the core of Hamilton’s Reynolds pamphlet
But if you hanker to read the full Reynolds pamphlet or leaf through Ham’s draft of the General’s farewell address, click here to experience the full majesty of the NYPL’s page-turning digital collection. Click on each image to explore the details of the engravings and zero in on the handwriting. It’s a unique chance to get up close and personal with Hamilton, like a backstage pass to everyone’s must-see show.
Download the exhibition brochure and walk through the NYPL’s fantastic digital archive of their Hamilton papers. Here is our Flickr album of some of our favorite sights in the beautifully staged first-floor showcase to this revolutionary Broadway superstar.
Taking their Shot in the lobby of the Public Theater in 2015
If you really want to experience Hamilton before the Tony Awards, it’s not that hard. Get up to New-York Historical Society at 77th Street and Central Park West and check out the life-size bronze statues of Hamilton and Burr one second before The Shot.
If you went to see Hamilton last year at the Public, you had to pass right between Kim Crowley’s bronze recreations when you entered the theater — a bespectacled Hamilton (wearing tinted glasses because he was facing the sunrise) and an intense Burr who was branded for all time in the history books one second later.
These action figures were initially installed at NYHS in 2004 as part of its ground-breaking Hamilton show…a magnificent installation that drew both raves (for the classy reimagining of NYHS and its exhibitions program after a near-collapse of that institution) and criticism (was it pandering to New York’s besmirched banking community?).
Their 1797 dueling pistols in the NYHS lobby
Interesting that 2004 was the 300th anniversary of both the duel and the year that NYHS was founded. In fact, Hamilton’s attending doctor that day was one of the founders.
Hamilton takes aim inside NYHS
After three hundred years and countless tries at the Hamilton’s pre-show lottery at the Richard Rodgers Theater, it will be a little disconnect to realize that the two facing off in the white marbled lobby are not Lin Manuel and Leslie Odom, Jr. The intensity and the historical dress are there, but the faces are different. Just stand there and run through all the lyrics you’ve memorized from the show.
Walk a few steps further and gaze down at the actual pistols – not stage props – and Angelica Schuyler’s letter to her brother, conveying the terrible news. All real, in her own hand, dated July 11, 1804.
OK, that’s just the lobby. By now, you’ve probably heard that NYHS has just announced its Summer of Hamilton, replete with a large gallery show of all the Hamilton-related documents, artifacts, and portraits plus special clips from Hamilton, movie musicals that inspired Lin, Ron Chernow’s book, and costumed performers on July 4 weekend.
But why not visit right now and have Ham and Burr all to yourself? To fill in the blanks about Ham’s life or prep to see the Broadway show, treat yourself to an exploration of the 2004 Ham show website. It’s full of all types of fun things – a quiz to test your Ham knowledge, a map of where Hamilton hung out in New York City, and real-life historical portraits of all the Schuyler sisters and everyone else in the Broadway show.
Lin’s Ham 4 Ham reading outside the theater during the preview lottery
There’s even a handy timeline of Hamilton’s “strange and amazing life,” which is a nice reference for things you’ve seen (or hope to see) in the show. For true fans (or curiosity-seekers), there’s even a small selection of short academic papers on Hamilton, including an interview with Ron Chernow, whose book inspired the current Broadway smash hit, and other brief treatises on his schooling, the duel, and the hours before his death.
Although it’s not inside the museum (or the Richard Rodgers), you can check out other Hamilton excitement at the Ham4Ham shows performed at lottery time on 47th Street, many of which have been taped by fans and put up on YouTube. Check out the recreation of the cabinet meeting by the Tony-nominated crew:
Many of the stories intertwine, and it’s fun to get insights from reading the backstories of the items on display, like the 1500s arrowhead and the 1700s oyster. We all know that New York City was the oyster capital of North America until the 1920s, but did you know that they were so abundant that crushed shells were used to line Pearl Street and provide the major component of the foundation mortar for Trinity Church on Wall Street?
Consider that the earliest guidebook to New York City (formerly New Amsterdam) was written in 1670, long before double-decker buses were trolling the mean streets.
New York’s first guide book from 1640
Mass-market media manipulations were born here as long ago as 1809, when young Washington Irving (who first used “Gotham” as a synonym the city in 1807) began posting missing-persons advertisements in a variety of city papers (the New York Evening Post is on display) to drive sales of his satirical political “history” of New York by a fictional Diedrich Knickerbocker. Move over, Buzzfeed.
City infrastructure highlights include Mr. Randal’s field books for laying out the Manhattan street grid in the early 1800s (see the digitized results here) and a snippet from the first transatlantic cable, deployed in 1854-1858. Queen Victoria sent an 88-word telegram to New York, which was officially received in an astounding 17 hours — an innovation at the time but significantly slower than dial-up AOL.
Visitors absolutely love the wooden water pipes on display at NYHS, but the show shares the fact that these were deployed by Aaron Burr, who got the state license to build New York’s first water system as part of his mission with The Manhattan Company. We’re used to hearing about the crumbling infrastructure under the streets today and contractors under-funding city technology projects, but this item underscores that it’s not a new story.
Section of water pipe, 1770-1804. The note says it was installed on Washington Street (near Liberty) in 1804 and pulled out of the ground around 1911.
Burr made money but let this innovative delivery system deteriorate. Instead of keeping the infrastructure up-to-date, he use the cash to build The Manhattan Bank (today JPMorgan Chase) to break the monopoly held by Mr. Hamilton’s Bank of New York – a rivalry that later escalated toward an historically tragic outcome. (See their dueling pistols in the lobby.)
On a happier note, one of the brightest objects in the show is the sterling silver Tiffany handle used to operate the first subway train in New York in 1904. Dignitaries used it to make the first run from City Hall up to 103rd Street on a day when 150,000 tickets were sold and New Yorkers took their first ride.
Subway tokens (1995-2003). Source: NYHS
Although they only went extinct in 2003, the subway tokens mounted behind glass seem like ancient history – little round artifacts that look as though they should have been dangling from beaded wampum belts and not carried around as currency in the 20th century.
Thanks to NYHS for providing us with this illuminating capsule collection.
A photo of the future view from an apartment in One57, with the Midtown zoning map. Source: Skyscraper Museum
People get pretty emotional about their New York skyline. Recent news has swirled around Comcast wanting to put its name atop Rockefeller Center (goodbye, G.E.), the soon-to-be obstructed view of Manhattan from New Jersey’s Lincoln Tunnel entrance, and the super-slim ultra-tall residential skyscrapers sprouting up along the south edge of Central Park.
What’s going up at Hudson Yards? Will more sky-high slivers be overtaking the Empire State Building? The downtown skyline? Thankfully, the Skyscraper Museum is walking us all through the plans in its show, closing this weekend, Sky High & the Logic of Luxury. In a fantastic on-line and in-gallery show, the museum lays out the thinking behind six super-tall residential real estate developments, gives us the historic context of tall buildings here, and introduces us to the architects and developers behind the trend.
Stars of the show, left to right: 432 Park Avenue, One57, 111 West 57th, Four Seasons at 30 Park Place, 56 Leonard, Hudson Yards Tower D.
The show – both in the museum and on the web – begins with a definition of “slim” skyscraper and the long history of super-skinny in Manhattan. The history goes as far back to 1889 with the super-tall (at eleven stories) Tower Building at 50 Broadway – the beginning of the first phase of super-slim buildings. The MetLife Tower, finished in 1909, still towers to the east of Shake Shack at Madison Square. (Note, however, that the clock face is the only original part of the exterior left after a 1960s renovation.)
Illustrations of the world’s tallest skyscrapers in 1899 to 1918, all in Manhattan.
After New York’s zoning laws went into effect in 1916 (the first in the United States), hotels started growing taller and skinnier (e.g. the Sherry Netherland in 1927, the Pierre in 1930). Residences didn’t get that way until much more recently with the post-1961 legal change that allowed developers to buy air rights and build really high.
Enter Trump in the 1980s with multiple residential towers covered in dark glass, and the super-tall building (One Madison Park) that went bankrupt during the recession. But now, the entire movement is gaining steam again, with prices, views, and amenities reaching higher and higher.
Installation view of Keiko Miyamori’s typewriters-in-resin (2012) with Ghost of a Dream’s The Price of Happiness mural (2011) made from losing US and Chinese lottery tickets.
Just as they did in the Bronx last summer at the Andrew Freedman Home, No Longer Empty has invited artists take over the former Bank of Manhattan in Long Island City and let us contemplate the meaning of currency and exchange in today’s troubled times.
Get over to see how 26 artists from 15 countries think about the American economy in How Much Do I Owe You, which is right next to the Queens Plaza subway station in the Clock Tower Building (29-27 41st Avenue). There’s lots of thought-provoking stuff from the moment you enter the door, like Ghost of a Dream’s The Price of Happiness mural. It depicts a typical American house made up of losing US and Chinese lottery tickets, and was made by the group during their stay in China. Check out more pictures of our favorites on Flickr.
Installation view of Coleen Ford’s Saving for our Future (2012), glass piggy banks stuffed with lottery tickets.
Downstairs by the bank’s vault, installations have a more private feel. Enter a small room to see and hear the results of Nicky Enright’s survey of the financial status of 80 artists in his Money Talks video (it’s not pretty). Enter a small alcove to watch Ana Prvacki’s amusing video of literal money laundering – in the guise of a “smelling good” household product commercial (think Wet Ones), she cleans and smells dollars in the hopes that she can bring about “a clean money culture”
When you round the corner to enter the open vault, you’ll be completely absorbed in watching Orit Ben-Shitrit’s mysterious performance video, Vive le Capitale, which was shot in HD among the vaults of the old Bankers Trust building at 14 Wall Street.